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NAVSEA Additive Manufacturing

by Vice Admiral Roy Kitchener
12 April 2022
RDML Lloyd, RDML Ver Hage, Mr. Perotti, Mr. Sermon, Ms. Sheridan, Captains, Commanders, and teammates, Good Morning! RDML Lloyd thank you for the invitation. I wish I could be there with you all in person to discuss the breakthroughs, innovations, ideas inherent to emerging technologies -and especially in the revolutionary field of additive manufacturing. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t miss an opportunity to address those working hard to increase self-sufficiency throughout the fleet and aid our mission to Produce More Ready Ships. I’d specifically like to thank the NAVSEA 05T team for the effort they’ve put forth testing, adjusting, and fitting out our ships with the complex equipment needed for additive manufacturing.

In the fight, time is everything and the less time spent repairing equipment or waiting on spares is more time spent engaging the enemy. The traditional path of repair and replacement requires a long list of buyers, brokers, and assessors. While we will always need OEMs the lag time between parts being ordered and when they’re received onboard is too great. Critical parts either need to be onboard our ships or we need to be able to manufacture them. Interesting that RDML Lloyd not only helps us with OPN-8 funding and onboard spares but he’s also central to the parts manufacturing effort.  We not only need the manufacturing equipment more, importantly we must also be able to send designs over classified networks and have the proprietary rights to print parts.

We are making progress, but I don’t have a developed sense that the progress comes from a coherent campaign plan that lays out where we are, where we’re going, the steps in between, and how they are sequenced and resourced. In 2010 we had a 3D printer on USS Princeton how far have we progressed since then?

So far only eight surface ships have been fitted with additive manufacturing capabilities, three with advanced manufacturing labs and five with stand-alone 3D printers. Are we satisfied with this progress? I’ll be honest, I’m not. 3D printing technology has been around for over 10 years now and from where I sit, I’d say that we’re behind. I don’t mean behind any of our potential adversaries—because I don’t know their capabilities—but behind where we ought to be given the state of technology and the obvious need.  We must continue putting our heads together and think about what the art of the possible is in five, ten, and fifteen years, given the state of technology today and those advances that are within our grasp. Should every ship be able to perform additive manufacturing? If so, to what degree? If not, what is our plan to ensure ACCESS to additive manufacturing for every ship? The folks in this conference listening to me own a small portion of that logistics chain, but we need to think about a future where parts are ordered from one ship, manufactured on another, and delivered by drones that pretty much do this kind of thing for a living.

Part of the campaign plan has to include experimentation with processes, networks, and complexity of parts in order to help us determine the right mix of capability and the degree to which we can relieve the traditional supply system of some of its current responsibilities. We need to think through the logistics of material storage and supply, how much we will need to retain locally on warships and how much might we stockpile and redistribute from supply ships.

You know, when I reviewed the major technical concerns for the 3D printer installation aboard USS Tripoli I saw opportunity. Every concern we have for why something won’t work is all the more reason to install the equipment and test it. We cannot hope to incorporate this technology in the fleet if we do not take risks and work through our concerns. We must be better, think more proactively and learn from our mistakes.  I’m encouraged that we are moving forward with the expeditionary printer solution. My question to everyone here is, “what is our plan now with the expeditionary 3D printer and what is our test plan?’

I do a ship visit every week. I walk around, I talk to Sailors, I poke here and there. As an old engineer and a garage mechanic myself, I like to look in on the state of the ship’s general workshop. I’m here to tell you that there isn’t much difference in the way they look from when I was an Ensign aboard USS Dewey (DDG 45). I look forward to hearing about the incorporation of metal 3D printers and computer assisted tools into general workshops and aviation repair shops. What should the general workshops look like? Can we install one at the Regional Maintenance Centers?

We must continue to think differently about the Force we have and how we repair it. Self-sufficiency is a weapon and it must be in the highest state of readiness on every ship. As we pioneer additive manufacturing it is vital that we concurrently invest in training. I’d like to see a greater involvement of the Navy Afloat Maintenance Training Strategy team and the Regional Maintenance Centers in the rollout of additive manufacturing to the fleet. Our Sailors must be well-trained in these technologies. I will tell your story and use our Public Affairs shop to widely disseminate this call but I need more tangible results to effectively push this message to the fleet.

New technologies are never easy to implement and my experiences have taught me that it takes dedication and a sense of urgency to get where we want to go. Our ships and our Sailors depend on us to provide them the best possible tools available, and in doing so we Produce More

Ready Ships. There is much to do but this team has done so much when focused on a common objective. My task to you, give me a campaign plan so I can take your ideas to sea to experiment and deliver the tools to enable our Sailors.

Thank you.

Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490
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Commander, Naval Surface Forces, U.S. Pacific Fleet, 2841 Rendova Rd. San Diego, CA 92155-5490

This is an official
U.S. Navy website

U.S. Pacific Fleet
2841 Rendova Rd
San Diego, CA

Public Affairs Officer

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